So there we were, watching an old western movie. A major shootout was underway and Garry looked annoyed. “Why,” he asked me, “Do they always break the glass? Why don’t they simply open the windows? And why are the guys on the roof always the first to get shot? And why doesn’t anyone fall over unconscious when hit with a chair? And how many bullets do those colts hold?”Garry immediately wrote his western loving friends on Facebook.

QUESTION: “Given the cost and scarcity of panes of glass in the old west, why — instead of breaking the glass before shooting — don’t they just open the windows?” 

Garry: I’m watching an old “High Chaparral” episode and I want to know — why do they always break the windows before the shootouts? Couldn’t they open the window first? Glass was expensive! And how come the guys on rooftops always get shot first in those shoot outs?

Marilyn: I never thought about the windows. Not only are they expensive, but they’d be pretty hard to get. I mean, did they make that stuff on the ranch? Or did they have to haul it from back east?

Texas Tom : This reporter is nowhere near the movie expert you are. However, my sense is they always break the windows for (first of all) the visceral sound effect of the shattering glass, which also is a much stronger macho gesture than simply opening a window. Besides, opening the  window just might require one or two more seconds than smashing the glass –which can also be interpreted as an act of absolute crazed panic and desperation — and shows the blood curdling anger and hostility of the glass breaker’s killer instinct.

As for always shooting the guys on the roof first, my sense again runs to the most bang for the moment answer. Having a stunt man tumble a story or two from a roof, balcony, overhang or whatever has a much more visceral (there’s that word again) impact on the  viewer’s brain and gut than simply shooting a guy standing  in front of you, or  on the same level with you.  It’s a much more dramatic way of saying “this is the real deal here”.  – T. Texas Tom: Champion Cap Gun Fighter of the Entire West

Garry: Damn, you are so much more cerebral than me. You sound more like a Pilgrim than a Texican. Mebbe it’s because we’re on a fixed income that I wince when they break the windows rather than opening them to spray lead. That’s another thing. You would think they would be more economical with their bullets. Let the bad guys use up their ammo and shoot when you have a clear target. I guess the Duke would be pissed if he heard this austerity rant.

Jordan: Do you think they only manufactured breakaway glass and furniture back in the old west?  Thought stuff back then was made to last?

Marilyn: You’d think the chairs would collapse if you sat in them. Balsa must be sturdier than I thought.

Garry: Yeah, I used to laugh my ass off at the six shooters that never ran out of bullets. Also, Roy, Gene and our other heroes being chased by hordes of bad guys who could shoot over their shoulder with precision and nail three bad guys with one bullet.

Texas Tom: Hoot, Gene, Roy, and Tex — those old guys would chase the bad guys and shoot for a whole reel without ever reloading. We used to laugh about that never-ending stream of bullets. They never fired their last bullet.

Marilyn: No one ever went into town to buy bullets, either. They must have had their own armory. Even the Lone Ranger never told Tonto to go into town and buy some ammo. I bet bullets came free with guns. Get a gun, come back any time for a box of bullets. That’s another thing. No one ever bought a gun. Did you ever see one of these guys go into a gun store and buy a gun? They always had guns and if one got blown away in a shootout, they had another immediately in hand. Then, another. 

And there you have it. A conversation about guns into which the NRA never enters.

Some weeks back, there was a TV cop show on which a guy got killed having his head slightly blown off by a blank. Turns out, while a blank is blanker than a standard bullet, if you stick the gun in your ear and pull the trigger, you’re just as dead as you would have been with the real deal bullet.

Go figure, right?


  1. My dad was good at discovering the western movie mistakes. He could never understand why they were all wearing “collar attached” shirts because in the time of the Wild West he said they didn’t exist. You either had no collar on the shirt or they were separate to be attached.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, the costumes are often ridiculous. They have zippers where there should be buttons. They are made of fabrics that didn’t exist … and that’s just the beginning. It’s like watching an old Robin Hood movie that’s supposed to be in the 12th century, but you can see the cell phones in their pockets. I get crazy about the terrible history in the movies and Garry tells me to shut up, it’s just a movie. Except when it bothers HIM. Then it’s okay 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The 50’s westerns were very style conscious. If you look at the oaters from Universal-International especially, you’ll see that almost everyone has good-looking duds. The Jimmy Stewart-Anthony Mann UI westerns were excellent and had a stock company that included Arthur Kennedy, Jack Elam, John McIntire, Henry Morgan, Robert J. Wilke, etc. Good guy and bad guys wore designer hats, jackets, and tailored jeans. They all rode nice horses. I actually thought that’s the way it should be and had problems with later westerns when the outfits were truer to history. Maybe that’s why I still iron my jeans to make sure the creases are stiff.

        “20 dollars for 6 weeks , shooting flies away from a village?? — wouldn’t even pay for my bullets.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I also read somewhere that they didn’t typically wear the type of hats you see in the films either. But it’s all a bit of fun and there was never any blood so I don’t think anyone really got hurt 🙂
    I used to love “High Chaparral” as a kid 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dral, I loved “The High Chapparal” opening. Leif Ericson had a nice, deep booming voice as “Big John” Cannon. But why did he call his son “Blue”?

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Speaking of hindsight, yesterday I watched the ’66 remake of “Stagecoach”. When it first came out, I along with many others thought it was heresy. Remake the Ford-Wayne classic?? Burn ’em at the OK Corral stake for sacrilege!!

            51 years later, the ’66 “Stagecoach” looks decent. Great production and action scenes. The ensemble cast — Ann-Margret in the Claire Trevor role, Van Heflin in the George Bancroft role, Slim Pickens in the Andy Devine role, Mike Connors replacing John Carradine, Bob Cummings replacing Berton Churchill, Stephanie Powers replacing Louise Platt, Red Buttons in the Donald Meeks role and Bing Crosby replacing Thomas Mitchell’s Doc Boone — are all as good and sometimes better than the original cast. Brings us to the biggest issue — Alex Cord as “Ringo”. I thought Cord was believable as the vengeance seeking cowboy. Only problem: No one could make us forget Duke Wayne’s career reviving performance, including that iconic opening shot where Wayne’s Ringo twirls his rifle as the camera zooms in. That shot,btw, was a studio insert.

            There’s also been an 80’s remake of “Stagecoach” with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and the rest of their gang. Interesting but a different shot of red eye.


  3. Another thought if you will. You shoot the guy on the roof for the same reason one would kill the archer first in an RPG game, because the guy on the roof has the best vantage point to kill you (the person shooting him). And you’re supposed to take out the biggest threat first. That’s why I, personally, try to take out the archer, and/or the magic user before dealing with the brutes with the blades. That guy on the roof may be harder to shoot (he has the high ground and all), but he’ll get me deader than dead if I don’t get him first.

    Just a thought. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I had another thought too. The reason why they break the windows is a practical one.. If you’re standing at a window and you plan to be exchanging gunfire for any length of time, you would want to break the glass away from you first… before some yahoo outside shoots the glass above you and you get a shower of glass shards in your face.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Blanks are deadly. These are explosives and can blow a hole through a phone book. They have been many injuries involving blanks in film work. Probably more than we know.
    Yeah, the action in old Westerns was pretty unrealistic at times. These days they have Continuity People on Set to keep track of some of these things – like how many shots were fired. Sometimes the editing people can still screw that up though.
    Wanna buy a gun? How about this:

    And once you’ve got your gun you don’t even have to pay for it !!!


  5. Well it certainly catches your attention when they have those shoot outs and glass breaking brawls. Did they do any trick photography then? Could they break the windows once than use that clip again?


    1. And why is it then when ever the bad guy runs out of bullets, he throws his gun at the good guy?? I mean, you just shot a hundred bulltets at the guy and you missed! Show you think throwing the gun is gonna work?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I wonder if gun makers back then used the modern day computer printer manufacturers technique (that they stole from the drug dealers!) of practically giving away their guns and then slugging them (pardon the pun) a moxie for the non-reusables/consumables like bullets??


    P.S. like the new header, Marilyn! 🙂


  7. Your posts are always so informative. That’s why I follow you. Broken panes of movie glass, killer caterpillars…. is there nothing you won’t tackle?


            1. The problem was, we memorized the questions AND answers. I remember we played it a lot in Israel and whenever they asked “Where is the Western Wall” (which I think they called “the Wailing Wall”), we had to give actual directions. Like “Drive down Hebron Road and when you get to Hebron Gate, park. Carefully or they’ll tow you (they might tow you anyway). Walk more or less straight until you get to the long, narrow stone steps going up. Walk up until you see the wall on the left, below you. Walk down the little stone steps. Hook a left, look for the begging Rabbis ….” etcetera. There were a lot of twists and turns in the Old City, so the walking directions could get interesting. Also, you could enter through any of the (I think) six open gates, and each one had a different path. I liked the one where you had to cover almost the entire Roman road … and the shoe stores and coffee shops which lined it. That’s probably all gone now.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. Rabbis. Give them a donation, they’ll pray for something specific for you. They live by the wall. All they do is pray and all they ask for is whatever you can spare. If you have nothing, they will pray for you anyway. If you believe in the power of group prayer, they are an excellent investment. I don’t think you could really call them commercial, exactly. But they do beg.


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